Kaplan Pro-democracy Protest in Solidarity with Arab Society

Kaplan Pro-democracy Protest in Solidarity with Arab Society

September 1, 2023

Beginning in January, for 34 consecutive weeks, thousands of protesters have gathered in Tel Aviv and across Israel to voice their opposition to the government's plans for overhauling the judicial system, while also advocating for a broader spectrum of societal issues. Arab citizens and the challenges faced by Arab society have largely remained on the periphery of the protests, for various reasons discussed in the IATF briefing paper.  Yet, on August 26th, the protest movement shifted its attention to condemn the rising violence and crime affecting Arab communities. 

The shift of the protest's focus towards addressing violence and crime within Arab society was prompted by the recent killing of Abed al-Rahman Kashua, Tira’s director general, and a remark made by Itamar Ben-Gvir during a news broadcast. In an interview with Channel 12 News, Minister of National Security asserted that the right of his family to travel in Judea and Samaria outweighed the freedom of movement for Arabs, stating, "The right to life comes before freedom of movement." He directly addressed Israeli-Arab journalist Mohammad Magadli, saying, "Sorry, Mohammad, but that’s the reality." One of the placards prominently displayed throughout the rally bore the message "Sorry Mohammad," encapsulating the sentiment. 

March of the Dead

Protester holding a sign "Sorry, Mohammad".

The protest's focus on the Arab community's challenges was evident in the solidarity march from Habima Plaza to Kaplan, echoing the March of the Dead, that took place before the main event on Saturday. Coffins were carried, symbolizing the lives lost to violence, and signs were held in Hebrew and Arabic expressing condolences and demanding equality, protection, and an end to racism: “To our neighbors in Tira/ We send our condolences; We are furious with our government/ We demand equality and protection for all citizens; Enough with the racism/From your neighbors in Kfar Hess and Ein Vered.” “We joined an unpresented coalition of organizations from Arab society and from the protest of different leading groups [...] We gathered various organizations from the protest - women, hi-tech, students and more - to lead with us the main march,” says Shir Nosatzki. 

For the main rally and similar events across the country, the protest organizers welcomed Arab speakers to its stage. Mayor Mamoun Abed Elhi of Tira, a keynote speaker, criticized the government's inadequate response to the escalating violence.  Abd al-Hay questioned the effectiveness of appointing officials who hold prejudiced views: “a decision to leave us dealing in blood. Whoever appoints Ben Gvir to keep us safe, doesn’t want to keep us safe. A minister who doesn’t want us in the country will protect us? A minister who hates Arabs will protect Arab children?” “Rather than bolstering the police, they're weakening them. Instead of fortifying schools and initiatives, they're weakening them. Instead of enhancing job opportunities, they're weakening them."

Abd al-Ha also drew attention to the freezing of funds for Arab municipalities, deeming it a detrimental step. He highlighted the need for genuine efforts to combat violence and provided the example of Netanya, which had successfully tackled organized crime to create a safer environment.  The mayor's speech at the Tel Aviv rally garnered widespread attention and resonance. "This government wants us to leave the country," he said, "but I have news for them. We were born here, and we will die here. Even if we all end up in a cemetery, we have no other place. This is also the land of our fathers, and we’re here to stay." "We need to join hands, Jews and Arabs, together we will fight for democracy, for life, for a future where children live in security and equality." The sentiment echoed across various protest locations where Arab speakers addressed the crowd, highlighting the urgent need for change and accountability. 

Addressing the audience in Tel Aviv, Shir Nosatzki, the director of 'Have You Seen the Horizon Lately,' strongly criticized the agenda of the government, which she asserted involves enacting "numerous laws designed to undermine the rights of the Arab community, erode equality, and promote a sense of Jewish supremacy." 

“Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?”, an Israeli initiative seeking to promote Jewish-Arab political partnership, shared a one-minute video that “summarizes the speeches” by Shir Nosatzki and Mayor Mamoun Abed Elhi at the event 

Thumbnail: “Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?” shared a one-minute video that featuring Shir Nosatzki and Mayor Mamoun Abed Elhi at the event.

Protest movement leaders emphasize that focusing on Arab society isn't mere coincidence or a pursuit of new agendas due to legislative recess, “but rather a step in a broader process towards which the liberal camp represented in the protest is marching. Bar Peleg confirms: “This is the way, perhaps, the long-awaited connection between the protest against the judicial overhaul and the 20 percent of Israel who is Arab will finally come to fruition.” 

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